West Tisbury selectmen met on Wednesday, July 13, and reaffirmed their vote of July 6 to refer the proposed conversion of a playing field at the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School to synthetic turf to the Martha’s Vineyard Commission (MVC) as as a discretionary referral.
The vote was identical to the first vote: Selectmen Cynthia Mitchell and Richard Knabel voted to recommend; Jeffrey “Skipper” Manter abstained.
The vote followed a brief presentation by Robert Smith, a founding member of MV@Play, the group proposing to install the synthetic turf. Mr. Smith refuted the arguments made by opponents who favor natural turf concentrating on the issue of pollution.
“We have studies from other facilities that are required to test the water, one of which is Mass Youth Soccer, which has both grass and turf,” he said. “They test both, and the turf is, clearly, clearer. The turf runoff is cleaner than the runoff from the grass.”
Mr. Smith also talked about the relative lack of change in use and the ability of the existing facility to handle the additional traffic caused by additional playing time, since most of that would be at different times.
Matt Poole of Chilmark also spoke. “I know the environmental impact from artificial turf is going to be significantly lower than natural,”he said.
He added that over time, there is less water pollution from a synthetic field than from runoff from the materials used to maintain a natural grass field. He also said that he would be surprised if the Oak Bluffs building inspector did not refer the proposed field overhaul to the MVC as a development of regional impact (DRI), inferring that the selectmen’s vote was probably not necessary. Chilmark selectmen had already made a similar referral.
West Tisbury selectmen will not meet again until the first Wednesday in August.